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Casting The Spell
Every story needs a story-teller and at the center of ELLA ENCHANTED is a narrator who frequently chimes in with a funny rhyme to let the audience in on new developments. Tommy O'Haver knew The Narrator would immediately set the tone for the tale, so he wanted to cast an actor who, right off the bat, would prove to be funny and delightfully different. That's why he chose "Monty Python” star and comic favorite Eric Idle. "I just knew I had to have somebody from ‘Monty Python' in this movie,” O'Haver admits. "They're the ultimate in irreverence, yet Eric also has a really sweet and charming quality that makes you trust him as your guide for this adventure.”

Even more key to the casting was to find the film's Ella, a heroine who might live in an ancient world of mystical curses and mythical ogres but is every bit the bold and beautiful modern girl. From the minute Tommy O'Haver saw Anne Hathaway in "The Princess Diaries,” he knew she was something special.

"I knew Anne was amazing but she turned out to be even more amazing than I expected,” says O'Haver. "She has a kind of quality that reminds me of Judy Garland in ‘The Wizard of Oz,' with that mixture of child-like purity but also the confidence and smarts of a mature young woman. It was also so important that this character have a real sense of humor and strong comedic timing – and Anne is a wonderful, natural comedienne. She's also a fantastic singer, so she has it all.”

Hathaway was charmed by the script's mix of merriment, fantasy and relationship reality. "I saw it as Ella going on a kind of medieval ‘road trip' during which she meets all these amazing characters and creations, but also learns to find her own strength, and what it means to be in love,” she comments. "I really adored Ella because she's so spunky and free-spirited. But she's not just living in a fairy tale. She's someone who truly tries to make her world a better place.”

She continues: "I also loved all the humor in the story – not just the witty lines, but also the slapstick and the physical humor and all the modern touches and the classic stuff that gets turned on its head. It combines timeless themes with very contemporary jokes. Because it's a fantasy film, I think you have total license to be as creative as you want, and that had a fantastic appeal to me.”

For Hathaway, the best part about ELLA ENCHANTED was the opportunity to make exactly the kind of movie she had longed to be enchanted by as a girl. "Growing up, I was always frustrated by family films, because they catered to little kids too much, and they weren't smart enough,” she says. "This is the kind of film I would have loved to see because it really appeals to a child's imagination, and at the same time, has a wit and entertainment value that makes it just as much an adult movie.”

Although Hathaway was excited about playing Ella, she was a bit shy about the musical numbers. "Tommy O'Haver had seen me on Broadway in ‘Carnival,' and I sang quite a bit in that so he thought I should sing a song as Ella. I don't actually think of myself as a singer,” she explains. "He really had to twist my arm and convince me I should sing in the film. And he did by choosing such an irresistible number: Queen's ‘Someone To Love.' I'm not quite sure if I'm Freddy Mercury, but I did my best!”

The film also marked Anne's first time doing extensive scenes acting with a bluescreen – a blank background that would later be filled in with CGI-created giants and snakes. "The blue screen is daunting,” she admits, "but luckily I have a pretty out-there imagination – almost as out-there as ELLA ENCHANTED.”

Comments Jane Startz: "Ella is a character who has a great sense of humor and refuses to buckle under in her fight for justice. She's always thinking her way out of tough situations – all qualities which make Anne exactly the right pe

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